Enrichment & Favorite Tools

Enhance the life of your dog with these simple steps.

Think for a moment about how monotonous life can be for a dog. They wait for us to get home all day, we feed them the same food from the same lackluster bowl, and then maybe we take them for a walk where we’re often irked if they want to sniff everything in sight. After that? Probably more laying around, couch time, T.V., and then off to bed to start the day all over again. Here’s the problem with all of that. Dogs have brains and their lives are better when they get to use it to do dog things.

At Pit Bull Advocates of America, we’re big proponents of using mental stimulation to enhance the lives of dogs we touch through our programming. We all understand that physical exercise is essential to our dog’s overall wellbeing, but pet guardians know little about how beneficial mental stimulation (or enrichment) can be. Thanks to advancement in canine behavioral science, we’ve come to understand mental stimulation does enhance the lives of our companions and is a vital part of living with and understanding them.

There are several simple things you can do to help enrich the life of your dog and enhance your relationship with them. First off, ditch the food bowl. Second, let them sniff. Third, peruse our collection of favorite enrichment toys, activities, and training tools to help improve the life of your dog.

Ditch the bowl

Make a promise to your dog to never feed them from a boring bowl again. There are many different ways you can have your dog search for and sniff out their food. Many of these suggestions you can use for their meals and for extra enrichment with treats throughout the day.

The StarMark Bob-A-Lot dog toy and any Snuffle Mat will make for great enrichment as you can tell by Tank’s attempt to get all the goodies.

Keep it simple, cardboard boxes and towels to the rescue! Fill the box with goodies and wrap up the towel with their favorite meal or treats. Bubbles and Tank show you how fun this can be. 

Licki Mats and Kongs. We can’t live without them! Slather them with peanut butter, yogurt, pumpkin, or any other dog safe food. Make a few and put them in the freezer for times when you need extra peace and quiet or when your dog needs a little extra stimulation.

Keep your dog busy and happy with these favorites: Bully SticksYak CheeseTreat Wheeler, and Chew Ball.

There are so many things we can be doing to enrich the lives of the dogs we love so much, and it doesn’t need to be expensive! Want to know more? Enroll in a FREE online self-paced course to get more enrichment ideas.

Sniffari’s. It’s like a safari, but for your dog

Take your dog on a sniffari, he’ll thank you. Dogs experience the world differently than we do, it’s imperative we understand this and cater to those differences. That means letting them sniff. They have 300 million olfactory receptors to our 5 million. So, while we stop to smell the roses for a moment, they stop to smell the insects hidden in the flower, but more importantly, investigate who has been nearby recently, what they were eating, and even how they were feeling.

Take your dog to the park, get out of the car and let your dog decide where to go. Let them take you on an adventure for once. On structured walks around the neighborhood, make sure to give them plenty of opportunity to take in the good sniffs. You can even put this on cue and say, “Go Sniff!” and lead them to a tree, fire hydrant, or open area. The video below explains how dogs “see” with their noses and why it’s so important to them to sniff. 

Do you have a fearful or reactive dog and no place to sniff, run and play? No problem! SniffSpot (link attached) is like an AirB&B for dogs where community members rent their yards for safe, private, off leash sniffs and play! Check them out and rent a private yard today!

Favorite Training/Management Tools

Training and management are also imperative to our companion’s wellbeing. If you don’t already know our stance on dog training, please visit our Training Philosophies page. Below are some of our favorite tools for training and managing the dogs in our lives.

If you don’t have motivation, you won’t be able to train. Learn why Motivation Matters and sign up for a FREE course!

Different treats have different values to our dogs. We hear it often: “My dog sits fine at home but forgets how to sit in public.” Your dog sits for a dry biscuit at home but taking that cue on the road is harder for some dogs when they are subjected to lots of distractions. That’s where you need to bust out the good stuff. Try upping the value of the reward you’re using from a low value, dry treat to something softer and smellier like cheese or hot dogs. The more difficult the task you’re asking your dog to do, the higher value the reward should have. We like Natural Balance Food Rolls and Cloud Star for a good, medium to high value reward.

Treat pouches. Enough said. It doesn’t matter which brand you get but we’re partial to this one. Treat pouches can come with different compartments, they clip onto your pants or wrap around your waist, and they also have room for poop bags. Everything you need. 

Treat Toob is a great tool for dispensing longer lasting food like peanut butter, liver sausage, or wet food. If your dog gets distracted easily by other dogs on walks, you can guide their attention back to you with some yummy peanut butter while you move out of the way. (If you have a dog that’s highly reactive on walks, this won’t work. Check out the Find A Trainer webpage if you need help.)

There are so many harness out there it can be confusing to know what to use, let alone how they even go on. We’ve had the most success with Freedom Harnesses. They clip in the front and back with a special leash. Be sure to give them a try. 

Managing space and creating safe areas for your dog is paramount. Dogs should have a safe space to relax away from other dogs or young children. Don’t be afraid to put up gates or crates in your home to create that safe space for training and management. Search “baby gates” on Amazon for a plethora of ideas on how to gain separation in your home. You can also save money by looking for gently used gates at goodwill or other consignment stores. 

Muzzles make great management tools to keep dogs and people safe. Don’t think that a muzzled dog is a bad dog. That’s not the case at all. We recommend Baskerville Muzzles and have used them with several of our dogs. You can’t just put a muzzle on your dog though. They need to be properly conditioned to wear one. Done appropriately, your dog will love their muzzle. The Muzzle Up Project is a great resource for those wanting to learn more about muzzles and how to properly train your dog to wear one.